Tom with BTRTN’s latest on the race for control of Congress.Our latest BTRTN midterms update highlights are as follows:
· Electoral environment. The electoral environment has swung back to the GOP, indicated by the generic ballot, which is now R+3, and by individual race polling, which has moved consistently toward GOP candidates.
· Senate. At this point, control of the Senate could go either way, though indicators still, on balance, very slightly favor the Democrats.
House. The odds of the Democrats maintaining control
of the House have fallen to single digits and the question is not whether the
GOP will take the House, but by how much.
· Governors. We expect the Democrats to flip two state houses rather easily, but there are only five competitive races that offer other realistic flip opportunities; if there are no other flips, state houses would be split 25/25.
· Priorities. Democratic volunteers and donors should focus their efforts on the highest leverage Senate races, which could come down to three pivotal contests.
Here are the latest BTRTN’s odds of the Democrats maintaining each of the two chambers, the expected number of seats that will change parties, and some key metrics, all compared to prior updates.
Why has the political environment gone so sour for the Democrats in these last two weeks? GOP messaging has sharpened around two issues that seem to be resonating among the persuadable, inflation and crime. The October 10 inflation report – the last before Election Day – put to bed any Democratic hope that there was evidence that inflation was being tamed. GOP candidates have gleefully kept the economic struggles of Americans front and center (even as the stock market has rebounded significantly over these two weeks, and gas prices have fallen). Crime has surged ahead of abortion in overall import to voters (the economy is still the top issue) and the GOP is viewed as the party more likely to deal with it effectively..
There is still time for this picture to change. Remember, these assessments are “snapshots,” not “predictions,” based on today’s conditions and data. (We’ll get into the prediction business on November 7, the day before Election Day.) But time is running short for late-breaking “surprises” that could stop or reverse GOP momentum, and, of course, early voting is well underway in some states.
Senate battleground race polls have tightened considerably over the past four months, and the Democratic candidates’ collective lead over their GOP counterparts is now nearly negligible.
We have made five ratings changes in the Senate, all five in the direction of the GOP, though none have resulted in a change in the party in the lead.
Democrats have to be alarmed at the narrowing of two races that seemed reasonably secure (if not solid) in New Hampshire and Arizona. Both have followed similar trajectories and neither Democratic candidate (Maggie Hassan and Mark Kelly) has committed any particular gaffe; their woes are simply a vestige of a political environment gone bad for the Democrats.
Pennsylvania is somewhat different. The race was narrowing even prior to the only debate scheduled between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz. Oz relied heavily on the crime issue and heavy media spending to reduce the Fetterman lead to about three points. But the debate was perhaps just short of a prime time disaster for Fetterman, who exhibited the effects of the stroke he suffered in May with his halting, repetitive and at times inarticulate delivery. It remains to be seen whether the debate proves damaging to him, as Oz himself made the rather remarkable claim that abortion decisions should be left to “women, doctors, local political leaders…”, a gaffe that is already running in heavy rotation in pro-Fetterman ads.
The two GOP Senate incumbents expanded their leads, with Ron Johnson of Wisconsin opening up daylight over Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes, and Marco Rubio all but putting away Val Demings, elevating the Florida race out of battleground status with his high single digit lead.
There are thus now eight “battleground” Senate races (races in which both parties have a legitimate shot of winning) and the Democrats remain nail-bitingly ahead in five of them. They need to win four to maintain control of the Senate, so this current “snapshot” continues to point to the Democrats holding the Senate, even flipping one seat (Pennsylvania). But that belies how tenuous their position has become. Each new poll seems to demonstrate continued GOP momentum, and with fully five races in the “toss-up” category, and three others in play, the Democrats could also lose big.
The full range of potential outcomes is demonstrated below; there is a 58% chance the Democrats will maintain the Senate by controlling 50 or more seats, but the chart also shows the potential for a range of adverse outcomes.
The chart below lists all the Senate races, with a focus on the eight battleground between the two purple lines.
For Democratic volunteers and donors, our guidance would be to prioritize the races as follows
· Control of the Senate might very well come down to whichever party wins two out of three of George, Nevada and Pennsylvania – those three would be the top priority.
· The next tier would be to bolster New Hampshire and Arizona, to prevent race dynamics from slipping any further (the GOP candidates have made significant inroads in both thus far)
· Volunteers should probably stop there, but if one is inclined to go beyond, Ohio might be the next bet, followed in turn by North Carolina and then Wisconsin.
To understand the dynamics of House races, the best indicator, by far, is the “generic ballot. This polling question has, over the years, been very highly correlated with how many seats each party will win or lose, especially in the midterms (as opposed to presidential election years).
That is bad news for the Democrats, because the generic ballot took a sharp and material turn in the direction of the GOP, who now lead by +3 points, back to where it was in June. If the election was held today, the Democrats would have only about a 1 in 10 chance of holding on to the House, according to our models.
As we have pointed out before, even when the generic ballot was a dead heat, as it was just a few weeks ago, that did not mean the race for control of the House was a dead heat as well. Given the disproportionate GOP representation in the House (due to overrepresentation of small states and effective gerrymandering), the Dems need to do much better than even in the generic ballot to have the upper hand in controlling the House. For this race to become truly competitive, the Dems need to build their generic ballot advantage to D+3 or even D+5. Clearly, the Dems are a long way from that, and are moving in the wrong direction. Should there be no change in the last 10 days, the Dems are looking at a 25-30 seat loss.
The GOP is in a commanding position. To hold onto the House, the Democrats have to win not only all of the toss-ups, but also most of the races that are currently leaning to the GOP.
Here is a breakdown of all the races that are potentially in play, arrayed across the categories above. For the Democrats to maintain control of the House, they need to win all of the Toss-up R races, and most of the Lean R as well.
As we have noted before, Governors became national figures with the onset of Covid as well as with the GOP push for more state control of electoral processes in the wake of The Big Lie. A number of governors figure prominently in 2024 presidential speculation. Thus more attention is being paid to gubernatorial races in 2022 – and there are a whopping 36 of them at stake.
There are only five races that are truly competitive at this point, but four of them are toss-ups. The other tight race, in Kansas, has had little public polling overall and none at all in October, so it is difficult to assess exactly where it might stand right now. This snapshot has the governor outcome at 25/25, another reflection of the polarized nature of our country.
Among the races that are not competitive are the only two states where we see flips in this snapshot, Maryland and Massachusetts. Both are blue states but have GOP governors who have termed out, Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts. Both will almost surely be replaced by the Democratic candidates in the races to succeed them, Wes Moore (in Maryland) and Maura Healy (in Massachusetts).
Here are the details on those five battleground races. The focus should be on those toss-up races and Kansas.
We’ll be back with more updates in the final 10 days, and our official predictions on November 7. Stay tuned.